(The Center Square) – The Georgia House approved a new Senate legislative district map Monday despite accusations of gerrymandering.
The map, which outlines the state Senate district boundaries for the next decade, now heads to Gov. Brian Kemp. The Senate approved the proposal, 34-21, on Tuesday. It cleared the House, 96-70, on Monday.
House Democrats overwhelmingly opposed the bill. Democrats in both chambers said the proposal does not consider racial demographics or the state's political makeup. It received an F grade from the Princeton Gerrymandering Project for its fairness and competitiveness.
Lawmakers must reconstruct the maps every 10 years to correspond with U.S. Census Bureau data. The data used for redistricting was released five months late. Last year's census showed Georgia's population grew by 1 million people from 2010 to 2020.
There are 34 Republicans in the Senate and 22 Democrats. The map contains 33 districts that likely would elect Republicans and 23 that likely would elect Democrats. The map drew criticism from the time it was released.
Democrats argue the census data shows that the state is now majority-minority. Rep. Bee Nguyen, D-Atlanta, said the November 2020 election of President Joe Biden showed the historically Republican state is now a swing state. She said the state also excluded non-English speakers from public input because lawmakers did not employ translators or publish translated versions of the proposal.
"This is about one thing and one thing only. It is about diluting the voices of Georgians, specifically Black and brown Georgians," Nguyen said. "It is anti-democratic and erodes the foundation of our democracy."
Rep. Bonnie Rich, R- Suwanee, who presented the Senate map in the House, said it includes 14 Black-majority and six minority-opportunity districts. She also said it splits 29 instead of 39 counties, accounting for communities of interest.
Democrats, however, took issue with how the districts are split and said some of the splits are unnecessary. They also accused Senate map drawers of targeting the state's only Asian-American female senator. While the data showed the Asian-American population is the fastest growing district in the state, the proposal puts part of Democratic Sen. Michelle Au's John Creek district into a majority Republican Forsyth County.
Rep. Beth Moore, D-Peachtree Corners, said the proposed map overall targets female lawmakers. She fears it could lead to policies that affect women and families being overlooked.
"We are watching a process in which primarily men are using their accumulated power to diminish the political impact of female legislators and, therefore, Georgia voters," Moore said.
Rich said Democrats were repeating the same buzzwords, even though the committee held nearly a dozen hearings and kept the redistricting process open to the public. She said those who called for translations did not propose a process for doing so. She also shot down claims the Senate willfully targeted Au.
"Well, first of all, that is an overly simplistic analysis of an extremely complicated process that has many layers," Rich said.